Monday, May 3, 2021

Municipal Clerks Week — THANK YOU, CLERKS!

It's Municipal Clerks Week and we are here for this. 👏👏👏

Clerks across the state are busy navigating the transition (cross your fingers) between the pandemic and what the "new normal" will come to be in their communities.

And they're doing it while taking care of the day-to-day business they've always been great at: 

  • Making sure the work of city hall gets done efficiently and according to law. 
  • Keeping people safe and informed. 
  • Being resourceful when resources are tight. 
  • Offering up a touch of humor when needed.

Last Municipal Clerks Week came in the thick of pandemic management as well as census and elections preparation. This year, we hope that there's an extra helping of pride for all that you've persevered through for your cities. The future is bright and your work helps make it shine.

As always, know that the League is here by your side — because nobody should feel like they're alone in this difficult role. We're committed to being responsive to what you need to get the job done right and listening, always, to help navigate the way together.

Take care, stay safe, and THANK YOU!

 P.S. If you're a city official who wants to learn more about the role of city clerk, check out this informative video from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.

 



Monday, February 22, 2021

Heartwarming Stories From City Hall

It's that time of year when we’re all in the mood for some heartwarming stories, don’t you think? To help, members of the League Board of Directors and the LMCIT Board of Trustees submitted a few dispatches from their own city halls, sure to evoke a few smiles and some city gov pride.

Greeted as Friends

A few weeks ago, the Minnetonka Senior Center organized an afternoon of “Parking Lot Bingo” for our senior residents. Turnout was pretty strong. Chris Egert of KSTP News lives in Minnetonka and was recruited to be the celebrity bingo caller. Players stayed in their cars and were safely socially distanced, and the event was a real success. The proof is always in the pudding, and a week or so later, we received the following email from a Minnetonka resident who attended the bingo event, her first Senior Center activity, and had invited her 88-year-old mother as her guest:

“Not only did she get to see and speak with Chris, she had a ball--and I did, too! What a fun way to gather with others from the community. Zoom is great, but gathering "in person" can't be beat.
Senior Center staff members greeted us like friends, with lots of enthusiasm, and set a great tone for an hour of fun. AND we felt very safe from COVID exposure. After we played our first game, we agreed we'd sign up for February.”

I am very proud of our staff. They have been working creatively to reach out and to safely connect with our senior residents. Very positive.

Submitted by Brad Wiersum
Minnetonka Mayor

A Spirit of Service

Last December, a customer entered the city’s off-sale liquor store, Spirits of Nisswa. Shortly thereafter an employee found the customer on the floor. Another employee came over and determined that the man was having a seizure. Our Spirits staff was able to call 911 and take direction from the dispatcher, care for the customer by rolling him on his side to prevent choking, and assist the other customers in the store quickly so they were able to exit. Our staff was able to remain calm throughout a very stressful situation. The man was taken to the hospital by ambulance. A week later the customer and his wife came to Spirits with three bouquets of flowers and cookies to show their appreciation for the kindness he was shown that day. The customer had no memory of the situation and he and his wife were both so appreciative for the staff at Spirits. I am so proud of their teamwork and commitment to helping others in times of need!

Submitted by Jenny Max
Nisswa City Administrator

A Bright 'Like'

A couple of weeks ago, one of our residents was pulled over for driving with a taillight out. Being pulled over is always unsettling and a lot people aren’t excited to add another financial bill to their plates, which really increases the anxiety. The motorist left with a voucher to have her taillight fixed for free at a local autobody shop, but more importantly, she left with a smile on her face and warm feeling in heart. Cottage Grove police officers, as part of the Light’s On! program, have handed out so many of these vouchers that they recently had to order more from program administrators. The resident posted about her experience on a popular neighborhood Facebook page, where it was liked and shared hundreds of times. One traffic stop had one tremendous and far-reaching impact on our community. I think it brings well-deserved credit to all our officers who practice compassionate, community policing.

Submitted by Myron Bailey
Cottage Grove Mayor

Help for the Helpers

Our citizen volunteer Public Safety Volunteer Emergency Response Team (VERT) assisted the Christian Cupboard Emergency Food Shelf (CCEFS) with a super-sized food giveaway event on Dec. 12.  It was an outdoor, drive-thru event with COVID-19 safety protocols in place. It ended up being the largest single distribution event in the history of CCEFS with 50,000 pounds of food provided to 730 families. An amazing feat but also a sad snapshot of the need in the community. A VERT member who has found themselves a CCEFS customer wrote a kind note about the event.

“Reality is that I have had to go to the Food Shelf, CCEFS, as I am a very very vulnerable senior. … I am so deeply grateful for the CCEFS as I cannot get to a store. Their food has been top of the line, their volunteers sent from Heaven and the drop in the trunk service has been invaluable to me. I honestly do not know how I would have eaten. Waiting for pick up I look at the employees and wish that I was there helping them.”

Submitted by Clint Gridley
Woodbury City Administrator

A Warm Safe Haven

A public works staffer, John Wirtz, was putting sand and salt down on a bridge when he spotted a small boy wandering lost by a busy intersection. Despite it being 15 degrees out, the boy had no jacket, hat, or mittens on. When Wirtz approached, the crying boy held up his arms to be picked up. Wirtz scooped up the child, put him in the warm truck cab, calmed him down, and called police who were able to take it from there.

Submitted by Andrew Johnson
Minneapolis City Council

 A Winter Wonderland

The City of Sartell and our community partners are lucky to be able to offer the annual Country Lights Festival around Lake Francis – it’s an amazing 33-acre winter wonderland lit by the glow of thousands of lights! This year we had an extra special touch. Darwin Bonn, a resident of Chateau Waters Senior Living, purchased lights for every balcony at Chateau Waters in honor of his late wife, Rosie, who loved Christmas and Christmas lights. As guests walked Lake Francis and the Country Lights Festival, they were able to see the lights on every balcony – 72 balconies in total. Check the story featured on Kare 11’s Land of 10,000 Stories here if you have not yet. As we were all looking for ways to connect this year, this one topped the list!
 
Anna Gruber
Sartell City Administrator

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Census Update: What's New and What's Next?

By Rachel Walker, LMC policy analysis manager   

Hey all, it’s Rachel, policy analysis manager and League census captain.

It’s been awhile so I’m back with a couple quick census updates.

First off, you may have heard, Minnesota was second in the nation as far as share of households counted! Yep, 75% of households across the state completed the census. Big thanks go to all of the local Complete Count Committees and others who helped achieve this. Cities, schools, counties, churches, nonprofits, local businesses and dedicated community members really stepped up in our state. 

You can explore census response rates in Minnesota and across the country by state, city, or county.

How does the census know how many households there are to count before they count? As you may remember, one of the first big steps in the decennial census process is the confirmation of local addresses. That's how census workers know where to send the forms and where to do targeted follow up. So, another big thanks goes to local government officials who assisted with the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA).

The census is pretty important for lots of reasons, but a big one is that it is going to determine whether we have seven or eight seats in Congress. In addition, about $2,800 in federal funding per person per year is distributed into the state through formulas for all kinds of programs: housing, education, healthcare, and more. The census data even affects distribution of LGA here in Minnesota by providing population information.

What's happening now

The past few months the U.S. Census Bureau has been compiling and formatting the data. It will slowly be releasing tables and maps as they wade through all of the data.  

You can visit the U.S. Census Bureau home page to see the latest.

Here at home, our Minnesota demographer’s office is closely monitoring data releases.

American Community Survey

If you are getting impatient waiting for more data, the Census Bureau did just recently release the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) data. The ACS has taken the place of the long form census, which collected a much wider range of data like number of bedrooms, education level, etc. 

You can explore this American Community Survey data here. 

Again, thanks for all the work that you put in to make sure your community was counted. Be proud, and enjoy the data!

Yours in a complete and accurate count,

Rachel

Monday, January 11, 2021

Confidence in Our Communities: A New Year’s Message from LMC President Brad Wiersum

A message from Brad Wiersum, LMC president and mayor of Minnetonka

Dear Minnesota City Officials:

Brad Wiersum smiles in a formal headshot with a black background.
LMC President Brad Wiersum
We made it. 2021 is here. Joy at the arrival of the new year is normal; it brings out feelings of optimism, expectation, and renewal. That is in a normal year.

As city officials we navigated uncharted waters in 2020. And here we are, at the start of 2021, with more hills to climb, including the aftermath of Jan. 6, and its impact on American democracy.

While the mood is hardly joyful, I am feeling a growing confidence that our communities will prevail. We will get through the pandemic, the economy will continue its improvement, and a sense of normalcy, with real human interaction, will return.  

I am proud to be affiliated with the League of Minnesota Cities. The work of the League is more important than ever. New topics including pandemic relief, crisis management, a renewed focus on racial equity, states of emergency, stay-at-home orders, serial special sessions, police reform, and many more challenged LMC staff and leadership. Through it all, the League has been steadfast, and has continued to be a resource to all Minnesota cities. The League has had to innovate. It is no small task. The service delivery models may have changed. The quality, efficacy and support provided by the LMC have continued at the highest level.

My 2020 highlight

The best aspect of being involved with the LMC is the opportunity to network and work with city officials from around the state and beyond. The usual regional meetings did not happen this year, and that is disappointing to me. Yet, demonstrating the need for connection and visibility, a series of “mini-meets” with city officials and League representatives were safely and effectively conducted. Visits involving over 100 cities were held, of which I attended about a third. It was the highlight of the year for me. Meetings were well-attended and beneficial.

Welcome, newly elected officials

2020 was an election year and there is a large contingent of newly elected officials across the state. The League has reinvented its educational offerings to accommodate today’s virtual reality. The Elected Leaders Institute programs will begin in late January. The program has been recast as a combination of real-time virtual meetings and self-directed e-learning. These programs are outstanding. Significant investments were made to make this essential education interesting and engaging. Please encourage your newly elected officials to attend the foundational program. I strongly recommend that experienced officials attend the advanced program. I promise you, it will be an excellent investment of your time. The speakers and the material are outstanding.

Finally, I thank you for your service to your cities. The work we all do is important. Be strong and be well. I wish health, happiness, and success to you in this new year. 

Brad Wiersum
LMC Board President
Mayor of Minnetonka




Monday, November 23, 2020

Giving Thanks for Election Administrators, Election Judges, and Support Staff

We've got a couple of words of hearty thanks to give as we near the end of an unprecedented election season. Please take just a moment of rest to read and share these words with your colleagues, preferably with a treat and warm mug in hand.

To Minnesota's election administrators, election judges, and support staff: Thank you!

Thank you for all your work planning, preparing, pivoting, re-planning, and then executing this massive undertaking with integrity. During a pandemic. Under a microscope.

That includes:
  • Implementing special procedures and cleaning to reduce the risk.
  • Educating voters about in-person, absentee, and early voting options.
  • Processing and accepting 1,909,277 absentee and mail ballots. 
  • Recruiting and coordinating over 30,000 election judges.
  • Urgently and successfully communicating last-minute changes. 
  • Smizing (smiling w/your eyes) while wearing a mask and assisting voters at polling places!

You made it possible for more than 3.2 million Minnesotans to vote safely and securely. This work was done precinct by precinct, person by person. The amazing turnout is a testament to the faith that Minnesotans have in our state’s election infrastructure, and the most important part of that infrastructure is people like you!

With gratitude in our hearts,

THANK YOU!

Friday, October 23, 2020

Key Takeaways from LMC Live! – Our Fall Webinar Series

It’s a wrap on LMC Live!, our free week of webinars. Though we missed seeing you in person for Regional Meetings this year, it was nice to gather online! 

State agencies, local subject matter experts, and League staff all shared their expertise on topics important to Minnesota cities, so we wanted to share some key takeaways from each of these sessions with you. 

Legislative Update

  1. In 2020, the focus of the legislature was pandemic response and police reform. Little else was accomplished.
  2. Going in to 2021, with the help of municipal leaders, the League will be working to protect resources for cities at both the state and federal levels.

Police Accountability Act and Implications for Cities

  1. City leaders have an important role in police reform — like fostering good relationships with their police chiefs and understanding how their police departments operate.
  2. The need to look at use-of-force reforms is not specific to the metro area — in fact, 60% of officer-involved shootings happen in Greater Minnesota.

Economic Outlook for Cities

  1. Minnesota is projected to have a $4.7 billion deficit for the upcoming biennium. Although that forecast will be updated around Dec. 1, the governor and legislature will address it when they convene in January.
  2. Polling during the webinar indicated cities are fairly optimistic about the impact on employment in cities.

A Legislative Spotlight on Elections

  1. Minnesota has a great history of voter turnout — in 2016 and 2018, we led the U.S. and are poised to again this year.
  2. Election administration looks different in 2020, but (thanks to the Secretary of State’s office and city elections officials) Minnesotans will be able to vote in a safe and secure way.

Normalizing the Conversation About Public Safety Mental Health

  1. Due to the nature of their jobs, public safety personnel may be at greater risk for PTSD/mental health concerns.
  2. A culture of compassion and support, proactive mental health programs — along with treatment options — can help keep your public safety teams healthy.

A Briefing from Gov. Tim Walz

  1. It'll take a strong state and local partnership to stem the impacts of COVID-19 — both from a public health perspective and from an economic recovery perspective. 
  2. To get anything done, you've got to reach across the divides you’re working around and compromise.

Prefer a print-friendly version of these key takeaways? Click here for a PDF of this handout

Monday, August 17, 2020

You Made It Work So Minnesotans Could Vote

To everyone who is still decompressing from the weeks and months of prep leading up to last Tuesday's pandemic-themed primary election:

You altered ALL your plans.
You stepped up to become a frontline worker.
You counted more paper ballots than ever.
You invested hours of meticulous planning in an abyss of unknowns.

Well. It paid off. Minnesotans felt safe enough to participate, and participate they did! According to the Secretary of State, over 900,000 Minnesotans cast a primary ballot by mail or in person.

You made it work so Minnesotans could vote. Frankly this is all exceptional, and yet exactly what we expect from elections administrators and their teams because it’s what you always do: step up for Minnesota voters. 

We know election season is far, far from over, but just wanted to let you know that we see you and appreciate the strong foundation you have made for the weeks and months ahead. THANK YOU!